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Government fires Mota Engil, wastes K1.7 billion

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The government has terminated the contract with Mota Engil, which was tasked to construct part of Rumphi- Nyika-Nthalire-Chitipa (M24/M9) Road despite spending over K1.7 billion on the project.

Roads Authority Chief Executive Officer Engineer Emmanuel Matapa said the cancellation follows contractual disagreements.

Matapa said the 260-kilometre (km) road would be redesigned and that a yet-to-be identified contractor would start constructing the whole stretch, from Rumphi Boma, all over again.

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Mota Engil was tasked to construct a 20-km stretch from Rumphi Boma to Bembe with a contract sum of K5.1 billion but, between 2019 and now, the company only did six km.

“The project went into some contractual disputes; so, it has resulted in the termination of that 20-kilometre contract. There were a number of issues [like] delayed payments, rainfall, so we thought it wise that, amicably, we resolve that [and that] we close the contract.

“The money we use is budgeted for. We pay for the activities somebody has done. The contracts we go into are what we call admeasurements contract. We only pay for what has been executed so far. The rest of the money was budgeted for money; it will be transferred to other activities within the road sector,” Matapa said.

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The project commenced on August 24 2018, and was supposed to be completed by March 2020.

But a National Audit letter to Secretary to the Treasury, dated January 27 2021, shows that Mota Engil claimed a total of K2,358,284,569.75, which represents 46 percent of the contract price.

“Amount already paid so far, according to documents provided by RFA [Roads Fund Administration] and examined by auditors, is K1,708,943,812.05 while the amount certified on this certificate is K256,188,247.07.

“This means amount already paid plus amount certified on this certificate represents 38 percent of the total contract price yet physical verification by the auditors disclosed that project work had stalled; there was no indication that the project was in progress,” reads the letter, titled ‘Verification of Government Arrears in Road Subsector as of June 2020’.

Motal Engil spokesperson Thomas Chafunya said the contract had indeed been terminated but declined to comment further saying: “We do not discuss contractual issues with a client through the media.”

Meanwhile, the government has said the Rumphi-Nyika- Nthalire-Chitipa Road is one of the 15 strategic flagship projects that will be priotised.

Speaking on Saturday, when Deputy Minister of Transport Nancy Chaola Mdooko toured the road, Matapa said the authority was working on new designs and that the money would be in the form of a loan sourced locally as opposed to the previous arrangement, where the Treasury funded the project.

“The government wants to source a bond— meaning, once we source the bond, then we go into new arrangements. A bond means somebody has guaranteed that money. It’s money [that is] not coming from the Treasury,” she said.

Mdooko said the Tonse Alliance led-administration was a listening one and would soon start the long-awaited construction to improve the road from the current earth status to bitumen.

She said, while waiting for the whole process to start, K1.2 billion had been set aside for road maintenance.

“We have visited the 260-kilometre Rumphi- Nyika-Nthalire-Chitipa Road. The road is one of the strategic flagship projects that the government of Malawi has identified to be upgraded from earth to bitumen status as the road is very important to the economy of this country. As at now, the government has identified some resources to do upgrading, mostly in difficult parts,” she said.

The government has since engaged Zhejiang Communications Construction Company and China Railway No. 5 to work on areas that are in bad shape.

Meanwhile, Village Head Biriwiri, under Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe of Rumphi District, has deplored the poor condition of the road, saying it is negatively affecting socio-economic activities.

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